Sometimes stories come by that make you pause, then dig in a bit more because THAT’S JUST TOO WEIRD to be true yet… it seems to have happened. I had to check out this exploding artichoke story.
An Italian woman was left shaken but otherwise unhurt by an exploding artichoke, La Repubblica reports.
The unnamed victim bought some fresh artichokes from her local supermarket in Olginate, some 40km northeast of Milan. When she laid into one with a knife, it went bang. Initially struck dumb by the shock, the poor woman appealed to her husband and daughter for assistance, and when they saw the leaves were “damaged and burnt”, they called in the cops.
However, it appears a chemical reaction provoked by fertilisers may be the explanation, rather than a chilling suicide-bombing Day of the Triffids scenario.
The explanation in the piece was less than satisfying. There had to be more to this. I had also found that it had happened before, in 2003, but I’m not so clear on this since it was reported in Ananova which I can no longer confirm and was likely reported in Italian since it took place also in Italy. The same story about cutting resulting in a bang was repeated verbatim in several places.
So, what is this all about? I contacted the California Artichoke Advisory Board where the Artichoke Queen, Pat Harper, checked her sources since SHE had never heard of such a thing after 20 years in the ‘choke biz. But she had gotten a similar report from a consumer late last year who also saw a spark that resulted in a black mark on the knife.
It is not common with the normal type of artichoke but one grower noted that it has been observed in fast growing annuals. A wound from insect damage to the plant can secrete resin which, when cut, might cause this condition.
Weird. But the “exploding” part is exaggerated. More like a pop. No injuries and it’s still OK to eat.
Artichoke is a species of thistle that is wonderfully delicious. Don’t be afraid of them even though they look weird and are known to rarely give you a jolt. As the Queen says, they more often explode with flavor.